Recently, an experienced Norwegian politician said that political parties are not important in themselves; they only play their roles if they get political ideas accepted and concrete projects implemented, such as roads built, schools made better, more jobs created, with equal pay for men and women. This is true, but I also believe that political parties are important as forums to discuss and agree upon values and ideology; they must have a foundation that guide them when prioritizing what is important to do and how it should be done.

In a few earlier articles, I have underlined that political in Pakistan and everywhere else should not be built around individuals, founders and their families. At the same time, great politicians of yesterday, heroes and heroines, especially those who lived in difficult times, can inspire us also today: Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Angela Merkel, and many more. But solutions for problems and issues today must be found by the leaders and politicians in our time, even if we chose to do things that the old leaders would not have approved of in their time.

I believe that it is essential for Pakistan to draw lessons from the past at home and abroad, but politicians must also realize that their work belongs to the present time and the future. Indeed, they must realize that it is ideology, values, ideas and concrete actions that create and unite people in a political party. Political parties should have democratically elected leaders, who work within the party organs.

In many ways, I am worried about the culture of the important parties in Pakistan; today’s leaders should remember that although they may be indispensable today, tomorrow they are gone. Yet, their mission and vision should be carried on by others. I believe that many parties in Pakistan deserve much longer life-span and serious influence than that of their founders and current leaders. Thus, the task of creating and building party cultures are essential for the development of democracy in the parties and the country.

Furthermore, I hope that several parties can join hands, too, around important issues and ideologies, such as literacy and education, global warming and climate changes, poverty reduction, job creation, and other issues that are everybody’s concern. The political parties can develop campaigns and even movements – or it can be the other way around, that political parties are established out of campaigns and movements . It is about ideas, goals, leadership, and a lot of work with participation from the top down, and in our time, from the bottom up. It is about developing and learning democracy by ‘doing democracy’.

Let me also underline that on the way to develop parties , many other organizations are also important; labour unions, interest and professional organizations, and all kinds of civil society organizations, including cultural organizations, chambers of commerce, and so on. When I write about this, I feel I preach more than I teach. I tell you what you should do, well, and what I should do, what we should do together. That is also an essential part of a democracy, of making the road ourselves and as we walk it.

Strong political parties are essential, some big ones and many small ones, who can join hands and support each other in government, and in opposition. Democratic politics is also about having opposition parties , who can be watchdogs and keep the government on the ‘straight and narrow’, and present ideas and alternatives in debate. Without a serious and fair opposition in parliament, the parliament is not really democratic.

Dear reader, if you have read some of my earlier articles, you will know that I often refer to my home country Norway. In spite of the land being small and very different from Pakistan, oil-rich and with a solid welfare state, there are important impulses and experiences we can borrow in Pakistan. As regards development of political parties , indeed the social democratic and socialist parties , we can draw many lessons from Norway and the other Nordic countries. Besides, Norway has about 40,000 Pakistani-Norwegian citizens, along with over half a million immigrants in a total population of just over five million. Many Pakistanis do well and several are engaged in politics.

Last Monday, Norway held its general election and close to eighty percent of eligible voters participated. The sitting Prime Minister Erna Solberg and her moderate Conservative Party gained renewed support, with a party to its right, the Progress Party, and two small centrist parties . The social democratic Labour Party, with its experienced leader Jonas Gahr Støre, along with the green Centre Party and the Socialist Party, will be in opposition; over the four-year parliamentary term, they might even get into the government offices if the Progress Party eventually will be considered unacceptable, hence voted out of power. In the parliamentary system, that can happen any time during the parliamentary term.

Let me mention, too, that the Labour leader is now being criticized for not having led his party to victory. Among the possible future leaders is one of the deputy leaders mentioned, notably Hadia Tajik, whose parents immigrated to Norway in the 1960s. She is still barely in her mid-30s, and has already been a government minister and is by many seen as a particularly gifted politician. Wouldn’t that be something if a woman with roots in Quetta, grown up in a small village on Norway’s west coast, and belonging to the Muslim (Shiite) faith, became chairwoman of the country’s largest party, and then, if they win the elections in four or eight years, she would be PM of Norway! We are already proud of her and of the land making it possible.

In the meantime, Abid Raja, belonging the small Liberal Party, supporting the current PM and her conservative government, might well become a cabinet minister. He has served as MP (or MNA) for one parliamentary term, and was yesterday already tipped for becoming the new Minister of Justice. Abid Raja is a lawyer by training, but he is also a quite unpredictable and folksy character – which makes him loved by ethnic Norwegians, too, in a land where ‘stiff upper lip’ is disliked.

Since I in my articles about political parties underline that they must be built on some form of ideological foundation, with ideas, values, faith and more, I regret to tell you that the voters in Norway this time seemed not to be interested in that. They seemed more concerned about concrete issues. In their election campaigns, the Labour Party and the small Christian People’s Party focused on values and moral issues, the latter also religion. The Labour leader is a man of faith himself. Labour stressed collective responsibility, and not leaving anyone behind was a slogan; they also said that the taxes should be raised, mainly for the rich, to meet higher expenses in the social sector and better integration of immigrants. They argued for a softer and kinder society, based on values.

Indeed, there are lessons to draw from little Norway when Pakistanis develop further the country’s political parties , campaigns, movements and organizations – and prepare for its general elections by May 2018.